After their breakthrough album, DEAD CITIES, RED SEAS & LOST GHOSTS, Anthony Gonzalez and Nicolas Fromageau, the collaborators in M83, parted ways. For the follow-up, BEFORE THE DAWN HEALS US, Gonzalez is at the helm, taking the swirling, evocative synth-scapes of the previous outing in tighter, more focused directions. Analog synthesizers still dominate the music, recalling early Tangerine Dream, and there is no shortage of the dramatic flourishes and cinematic sensibility that characterized DEAD CITIES (just listen to "Moon Child," the album's leadoff track). However, Gonzalez's song structures and increased use of vocals signal something new.
There are moments of drifting bliss, of course, on the Brian Eno-esque "I Guess I'm Floating," and "Farewell/Goodbye," a breathy electronic ballad with vocals from Lisa Papineau. Yet the shoegazer-meets-New Wave track "Don't Save Us from the Flames" could be an indie-pop single, with its sinuous verses and crashing, wall-of-sound choruses, and "Teen Angst" is an blast of up-tempo euphoria. Gonzalez still takes plenty of moody turns, particularly on the piano-led "Safe," which could fit on Pink Floyd's THE WALL, and "Car Chase Terror," a tension-filled soundtrack for an imaginary film. These varied styles fit together nicely on BEFORE THE DAWN HEALS US, making for an ever-changing, captivating listen.
Rolling Stone (No. 966, p.61) - 3 stars out of 5 - "Anthony Gonzalez...creates grand, ornate arrangements of simple compositions that draw from both electronic drone and rock drama..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.88) - "[A]nother sprawling epic. A symphony of dreamy synths and soaring guitar fuzz..." - Grade: A-
Uncut (p.79) - 3 stars out of 5 - "Grandiose, overwhelming, pretentious and absurd, BEFORE THE DAWN HEALS US is one of the first great albums of 2005."